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Healthcare exec joins Walmart

BY DSN STAFF

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Dijuana Lewis was named SVP healthcare solutions at Walmart, the company announced Thursday. She will report to John Agwunobi, who serves as president of Walmart’s health-and-wellness business unit.

Lewis most recently served as president and CEO of health benefits company Wellpoint’s comprehensive health solutions business unit, but was dismissed from the company last fall after a senior leadership shakeup. She spent 16 years with Wellpoint, and that background and insight should prove valuable at Walmart, where she is expected to oversee development of products and services in collaboration with a third-party payer in the healthcare industry.

“Dijuana’s experience developing innovative health solutions, marketing and product development, and provider contracting and relations will help strengthen Walmart’s position as an everyday low-cost provider of healthcare solutions,” Agwunobi stated in a memo.

Lewis will bring a new perspective to Walmart’s health-and-wellness unit, as Wellpoint is the nation’s largest health benefits company in terms of medical enrollment, with more than 33 million members in its affiliated health plans and a total of more than 69 million individuals served through all subsidiaries.

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Consumers continue to plan ahead before shopping

BY Allison Cerra

MIAMI BEACH — While fewer consumers are seeking out private-label options this year, preplanning activities continue to be a priority, according to a new survey conducted by SymphonyIRI Group.

In SymphonyIRI’s inaugural MarketPulse survey, the group found that 2-out-of-3 shoppers today are making shopping lists prior to visiting the store, while 56% are reading store fliers either before or at the store — statistics that are in line with trends noted in 2010.

What’s more, consumers are shifting back to their favorite brands, although they noted that value is essential when purchasing products. For example, 38% of consumers in 2011 are giving up their favorite brands to save money (down from 46% in 2010), while 36% of consumers actively are seeking out private-label brands to save money today, versus 44% in 2010. From a price standpoint, 64% of respondents said price has become a more important consideration than convenience in brand purchases, a six-point decline from last year.

"An economy in transition to recovery is as tricky to navigate for [consumer packaged goods], retail and healthcare leaders as an economy moving into recession," said John Freeland, president and CEO at SymphonyIRI. "Some shoppers are retaining their frugal ways, others are spending more freely across the board and others still are spending more on some types of products but remaining tight-fisted about others. They are also re-evaluating where they purchase their products and updating their definition of value."

"This review of product and retail value proposition provides an outstanding opportunity for manufacturers and retailers willing to analyze carefully discrete shopper microsegments and understand the motivations and drivers of each,” Freeland added.

SymphonyIRI released the survey results during its Summit 2011 conference, which was held in Florida this week.

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NRF welcomes consumer groups’ opposition to swipe-fee reform delay

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — Just two weeks after expressing its discouragement caused by the delayed swipe-fee reform, the National Retail Federation lauded a letter from a coalition of consumer groups that also opposed the delay, which is slated to go into effect this summer.

Americans for Financial Reform — a coalition focused on financial services industry reform that includes the Consumer Federation of America, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and a number of other consumer organizations among its 250 national, state and local members — asked Congress Wednesday to reject proposals to delay swipe-fee reform.

“The current interchange system is uncompetitive, nontransparent and harmful to consumers,” AFR said. “AFR does not support congressional delay of implementation of the new law.”

The NRF said that the groups expressed that "it’s time to do something about [swipe fees], not time to derail reform through further study."

As previously reported, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., recently introduced the Debit Interchange Fee Study Act of 2011, which would postpone swipe-fee reductions included in last year’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act by two years, and would require a study of the issue.

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